Traditional Panforte recipe

This panforte recipe will take you back in time... Panforte is a spiced fruit and nut cake and one of the oldest sweets in Italy, dating back through the centuries to the introduction of new spices from afar, via the naval port of Pisa.

Panforte is sticky but irresistible, and is normally eaten in winter, perhaps with coffee and liqueurs after a meal.

A small piece is sufficient to tell you about the complexity of the spices used at that time.

Ingredients for 10:

240 g. of figs or pitted dates

50 g. of honey

100 g. of soft brown sugar

½ tablespoon each of ground cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper

250 g. of candied fruit, such as cherries, citron, lemon and orange rind

50 g. of blanched almonds

50 g. of pine nuts

50 g. of shelled hazelnuts, toasted

3-4 tablespoons of plain flour, sifted

50 ml. of Vin Santo (a sweet strong liquor is a non-ideal substitute if you don't have this Italian spirit)

Icing sugar to dust


Heat the oven to 150 °C / Gas 2. Line a shallow 25 cm round cake tin, or a 20 cm square tin, with rice paper.

Mince the figs or dates and put them in a pan with enough water just to cover.

Add the honey, brown sugar and all the spices. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, then tip into a bowl. The mixture should be soft and sticky, but not wet.

Add the candied fruit and nuts and mix well, then add the flour and Vin Santo and mix to a sticky mass.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Sprinkle generously with icing sugar and serve cut into thin wedges.

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